Ecosystem approach to harvesting in the Arctic: walking the tightrope between exploitation and conservation in the Barents Sea

Michael R. Heath, Déborah Benkort, Andrew S. Brierley, Ute Daewel, Jack H. Laverick, Roland Proud, Douglas C. Speirs

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Abstract

Projecting the consequences of warming and sea-ice loss for Arctic marine food web and fisheries is challenging due to the intricate relationships between biology and ice. We used StrathE2EPolar, an end-to-end (microbes-to-megafauna) food web model incorporating ice-dependencies to simulate climate-fisheries interactions in the Barents Sea. The model was driven by output from the NEMO-MEDUSA earth system model, assuming RCP 8.5 atmospheric forcing. The Barents Sea was projected to be >95% ice-free all year-round by the 2040s compared to >50% in the 2010s, and approximately 2°C warmer. Fisheries management reference points (FMSY and BMSY) for demersal fish (cod, haddock) were projected to increase by around 6%, indicating higher productivity. However, planktivorous fish (capelin, herring) reference points were projected to decrease by 15%, and upper trophic levels (birds, mammals) were strongly sensitive to planktivorous fish harvesting. The results indicate difficult trade-offs ahead, between harvesting and conservation of ecosystem structure and function.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalAmbio
Early online date3 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Barents Sea
  • climate change
  • ecosystem model
  • fishing
  • food web
  • chlorophyll
  • acoustic data

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